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Day seven. (95sep01)

Will drives us to "Pepito's" for a Will-sized lunch; we each get a too-big pipe bomb burrito; well, too big for Scott and I. Will's appetite is stuff of legend. This thing is bigger than food should be. Then, we do a drive-through at the splendidly-named "Wo Wo Wash" car wash. Will has to make an appearance at work to make sure the company hasn't crumbled; we go off to do laundry.

The Brainwash Laundry is one of those hep new laundromat/cafe/bar places you've read about in the papers. I like the pop-art chairs with logos for Cheer, Dr. Pepper, streets signs, etc. Ironically, when I arrived at home, I had their press release waiting in X Magazine's post office box. There's going to be a weekly, half-hour television series entitled "From the Brainwash Cafe/Laundromat," featuring artists, writers, poets, musicians, etc. The company that sent the press release also sells Burning Man videos.

The washers and dryers at Brainwash have digital timers. This is very nice. The dryers are also labelled, one word per dryer:

The bathroom features tiles with arty quotes. Tons of them.
You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements. -- Norman Douglas

The act of creating is as intergral a part of life as going to the lavatory. -- David Bowie

Life is a bottle of beer and quotations are the backwash. -- Justin Phelps

Godammit! He beat me to it. -- Janis Joplin on Jimi Hendrix's death

Fundamentally the marksman aims at himself. -- Zen in the Art of Archery

They also have a few pinball machines; we play the rotty damaged World Cup machine and give up after a few balls. Scott selects the "DEEP" dryer. Thirty minutes later, we drop our laundry off at Will's and hit San Francisco proper.

We arrive at Sanrio's, by luck only. Kerokerokeropi! Hello, Kitty! The Star Twins! Pochacco! Some people are confused by the excitement generated by these foreign cartoon characters. They don't talk (English, at least; Hello Kitty has a cartoon show in which she talks. An associate of mine referred to this as one of the creepiest things she's ever seen), so you're spared the inevitable homey maxims. They're relatively unknown, so they won't appear in commercial endorsements or "It's Your Fault, Stupid" Ad Council campaigns. Sigh.

As we're walking through the store, I am aware of a black hole, a sense of something missing, a vortex of pain. Hey! When did Tuxedo Sam take a dive? He's nowhere to be found. I am sad. "He wants to help, but is not needed." His motto rings truer than ever in this cutthroat world of weird puffy Japanese mass-merchandised cartoon characters. How will the schoolgirls cope? Will there be twelve-step programs?

There is a huge stuffed Hello Kitty here, under glass. She's sitting behind one of those kitschy glowing arc-ball things, what the hell are they called dammit the ones that you touch, the globes; it's some coin-operated fortune teller thing. I'm game. My Hello Kitty fortune reads:

"Give someone a hug today. It will make you both feel better."
After reading this over my shoulder, Scott bolts for the entrance. I have to settle between a three-foot fiberglass Kerokerokeropi statue and a father waiting for his kids. He looks on perplexed as I hug the frog, unaware of my split-second change of kismet (hugmet?). I don't know about the frog, but I feel fine.

For someone so caught up with tracking the fervor of rampant capitalism, I've taken a real minimalist view toward consumerism in general; "just buy what you need, and you need nothing here," I keep repeating myself as I scan the shelves and aisles crammed with fine merchandise. "Omigod I NEED this metal pencil holder!" [present tense: I still haven't used the damn thing, months later. But it's pretty. And I think that's important, somehow.]

Another coin-operated machine in the store is a little crane game; you press a button, the crane goes down, and hopefully you score some candy off a moving platter. My four chances get me zip, but as we're leaving, the gods of gravity grant me a small taffy-like object. It looks like caramel with bits of corn(?) inside it, and it's luverly.

As we're about to leave the the store, we're approached by one of the cashiers.

"Did you lose something?"
"Uhhh...don't know. What is it?"
"Did you lose something?"
"I don't know what it might be. What is it?"
At this point she reluctantly produces our camera.
"Hey! Our camera!"
"You sure this is yours?"
That's an odd question. I mean, no matter who we were, the answer would be "Yes." I couldn't figure out why I had left the camera there, until I realized this had been the first time on the trip that I had purchased something. A nice subconcious trade at check-out; camera for pencil holder. It's savvy attention to detail like this that makes me the primary literary magnet of the late twentieth century. ZZzzzzz...

A quick jump over to Borders bookstore to see if we can find Chris, who is one of Factsheet Five's reviewers. He had recently taken to playing our noise band tape (Five Jerks with a Tape Deck) in the in-store cafe extremely loud. This I find extremely funny. He had quit a few days ago, according to the counter person.

Now, surely, it was time for one of my favorite inner city pasttimes: X Magazine Car Giveaway. To participate, just park your car on any street I may happen to walk down. Roll down your window, and disembark! Toss, toss, toss. Magazines for all my friends with rolled-down windows (except for those vehicles by which their very nature scream "mob" or "gang")! Merry Christmas!

We return to Will's apartment to pick up the SUV. The drive to the Pacific coast cuts through a teeming market district, then past an area of many boring houses; Will used to live here. He described the place: "it has many boring houses."

Now we're jumping around, in the Pacific Ocean! Scott has travelled coast to coast, essentially. We've arrived just in time for the sunset. There's tons of broken sand dollars here, I'm thinking about $200-$300 worth. Sandpipers rapidly skimming the shore look like little cartoon characters (those feet! They are crazy birds!). Occasionally we spot a jellyfish/man-o-war on the beach, and the rare beachus doggus. Scott and I meet right on either side of the only unbroken sand dollar on the entire beach that day.

On the way to Bay Bridge, we spot Satellite Dish Dog. You know, one of those dogs with the big plastic collar-dish around their neck so they don't bite at healing wounds. RCA presents The Home of Future Living with Satellite Dish Dog!

"Houston to Satellite Dish Dog...are you receiving us?"

-- hand spray-stenciled sign

We're cruising El Camino Del Mar. The road angles are so steep, the SUV occasionally flips over, sending us rolling comically down the hill, laughing. I love this place! Biking in the city must be so manic-depressive. "Uhh! Uhh! Uhh! WeeeeeeEEEEEE! Uhh! Uhh! Uhh! WeeeeeEEEE!" Four raccoons scurry by us just before we roll into the Presidio.

Our drive to the coast and back to Will's leaves us with many questions. "Why so much billboard advertising for Altoids, such a small (but curiously strong) mint snack?" "Why no Altoids advertising elsewhere?" "What is with San Francisco and Altoids? Bad breath capital of the world?"

While Will is still working (this is like saying "while gravity continued to function"), so we visit That's Entertainment, a pool table/coin-op gaming facility with no press releases to speak of. Pesto/pepperoni pizza for dinner at the in-house diner, some pinball (a properly-functioning World Cup machine, which is actually entertaining), and shufflepuck. Originally, the two shufflepuck machines accepted quarters, but now you had to get the pucks from the desk. The scoring control panel doesn't work, so we're thinking the whole thing was free, as if they had given up on the concept of people ever playing this weird shufflepuck thing. We play for a half-hour, keeping track of the score IN OUR HEADS if you can imagine, and then we get hit with a $4.50 bad non-operative shufflepuck charge. Well, I can tell you right now, pal, I ain't gonna play shufflepuck THERE again no how no way. This may be the only physical transaction of cash I handled from start to finish the whole trip, and I blew it. After discussing it with Scott, I sign over power of attorney to him. It's better this way.

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